Skipping ahead from the Philosophy of History, which I’ll hold off commenting on until I’ve read the unabridged version, let’s skip to the somewhat more interesting and fundamental Science of Logic. We’ll come back to this again once I’ve read the unabridged whole, but, for now, here’s a couple points:
One of the things most annoying about Hegel is his refusal to name names. I suppose he could be, like Newton in his Principia, simply snubbing the posers who aren’t smart enough to follow his argument without a few signposts along the way. That was certainly the approach of his slightly older contemporary Fichte. At least Newton was honest about it – don’t remember the exact quote, but basically when told that his explanations could be made a lot clearer, said that it would be better if stupid people just gave up left it to the smart people like him. So Hegel begins by saying people used to believe X, then people believed Y, and now, really enlightened people believe Z – leaving it to the reader to figure out that X is Aristotle, Y is Kant, and Z – well, this one he owns up to, being enlightened and modern and all – is Hegel.
This Don’t Say Who I’m Talking About would be trivial except that Hegel largely avoids the terminology and descriptive methods that Aristotle and Kant use, thereby creating simultaneously a terminology mapping and argument reformatting challenge. Unlike Thomas, say, who considers it mandatory to restate his opponent’s position in terms his opponent would agree to, Hegel seems to believe that he’s doing somebody a favor by restating his opponent’s positions in his – Hegel’s – terms.
What this means for the reader is that, to get 15 pages in, one must figure out who Hegel is talking about, decipher Hegel’s description, and then see if that description is a fair representation of the original argument – only then can you proceed to trying to understand Hegel’s positions.
Annoying, but overcomeable. Which leads to the second issue – what I’m thinking of doing is picking out a few important representative passages, and restating them in both cleaner sentences and, where possible, in more traditional terms. This is fraught with danger, but it seems to me the only way to do that one thing Hegel is demonstrably bad at: clearly stating what he’s up to. A philosopher beloved of totalitarians, royalists, communists, national socialists, progressives, classic liberals – that’s a philosopher who has failed to be clear. That’s on him, not his serious followers.